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The [Thursday] Papers

I feel like I've been letting readers down this week by not putting out full columns every day, but I've had a lot of real-life concerns to attend to. I've also been spending an inordinate amount of time on Twitter because the #cpsclosings fiasco has inspired so much rich material - while making a lot of us heartsick at the same time.

I told a friend last night at Rainbo that I wasn't sure if I'd ever seen such a steaming pile of bullshit in all my years as a reporter as I've seen coming out of CPS and City Hall on this. I know it's a cliche to say, but I'm moved to recite the exceedingly wise observation that we're all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. CPS has conducted a war on facts that is all the more shameful coming from an organization whose mission is to educate children. Karen Lewis is right: It's a shonda.

Additionally, the performance by the school board yesterday was one of the most horrid things I've seen by a public body. Yes, the city council is often a self-parodying joke; go back and look at the floor speeches when they passed the parking meter deal.

But the comments by David Vitale, Henry Bienen and Mahalia Hines, in particular, were so antagonizing and lacking in empathy and graciousness that I wanted to kick my TV in. (I was watching via CLTV; I'm glad they were there but their coverage was an embarrassment, from maddening technical glitches to failing to understand that the monumental vote to close 50 schools had already occurred while they were still telling audiences they were awaiting it. Sheesh.) Way to get started on that whole moving forward together thing.

I hung around to watch Chicago Tonight's sorry performance and that's how I ended up at Rainbo seeking comfort in the form of $2 PBR pints on tap, local musicians extraordinaire behind the bar, and the Angry Aussie of Humboldt Park on the bar stool to my left and the good Rev. Jim Ignatowski to my right. That's the Chicago I love, and it's shrunk damn near close to a singularity; I fell out of love with this city a few years ago and I'm trying to get out.

Then I had an early morning confab at Filter analyzing this video. I also was lucky enough to get my coffee - much improved since they switched from Colombian to Peruvian; I can't get enough now - served in an Onion mug, which always makes it taste better.

So it's 11:15 a.m. as I write this and I'm trying to regroup. I always have so much more I want to write and post then I ever get around to. I use to have a lot more writers and we used to do a lot more on this site, but a couple years ago I slimmed things down for a number of reasons, though I'm not averse to ramping back up under the right circumstances. Readership certainly hasn't suffered; it's peaked, actually, which I find really weird. But I know the site isn't the same.

Anyway, I hope to bring extensive coverage/commentary on yesterday's proceedings, as well as praise and condemnation for our media - once again, a shout-out to WBEZ and Catalyst in particular, as well as the outstanding work by advocates such as Raise Your Hand, whom you can choose to side with or not (I do) but who delivered key questions and analyses, and Jeanne Olson, who delivered indisputable facts derived from the actual data that I hope made CPS officials privately blush. In a better world, I dare say Jeanne Olson should be running CPS.

In a better world, too, we wouldn't need an elected school board. It's an issue I was once agnostic on, in part because I hadn't really researched the arguments well enough to have what I felt would be a valid opinion. But like many, I now believe that, given Chicago's political culture and the nature of City Hall, it's abundantly necessary. I happen to favor mayoral control of the schools - though I could be persuaded otherwise. But a board appointed by a mayor is a joke. What's the point of having a board, then? Maybe the formula should be mayoral control, which basically means hiring the superintendent, with an elected board. Checks and balances, because yesterday six unelected board members, an unelected superintendent and a mayor overruled an entire city.

This plan is mad, and for the next year and more we'll be seeing a steady stream of stories recounting one disaster after the next. Children will be hurt. And neighborhoods will be see more devastation.

And at some point, a new CPS administration will come in and tell us that the previous administration did it all wrong, just like this one is saying now. They all say that so they can have their own claim to greatness as they stamp their ticket for the next job. Each succeeding administration, of course, is comprised of people from the same political circle. They're all pals, and they never speak up in real time. (The real question, then, is where were you, David Vitale?) But we'll be told the status quo is no longer acceptable, as it was in the day when they closed 50 schools. And they'll ask where the parents and teachers were. Well, we saw where they were yesterday, and where they've been all along, begging for mercy, pleading for reason, crying for justice, believing that facts could win the day. But this is Chicago. Brute force wins the day here. This is not a fact-based community.

That's all for now; I'm going to start working on today's site. Hopefully I can catch up before more stupidity befalls our city, because it's really hard to keep up.

The Secret Poetry of Afghan Women
"My body belongs to me; to others its mastery."

The Political Odds
Updated due to current events.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: America's Finest Tip Line.



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Posted on May 23, 2013


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BOOKS - Local Book Notes: The Unknown Americans Of The Walmart Republic.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Beachwood Photo Booth: Wagon Master.


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